Five quarter-final places up for grabs as Gloucester, Dragons and Exeter go through

It’s still all to play for in the European Rugby Challenge Cup with five places in the knockout stage up for grabs going into Round 6.

Exeter got the better of Connacht Rugby in a high-scoring tie at the Sportsground in Pool 2 and the Aviva Premiership club will be looking to book a home quarter-final when they host Bayonne on Saturday. Connacht are still in the hunt for a best runner-up finish and they travel to bottom-placed La Rochelle on Saturday, January 24th, kick off 18:30. Supporters can travel with the team for an overnight stay in the team hotel on Friday 23rd. The full package, including flights, transfers and 4* accommodation, is available for €375 from Keller Travel. Call 090 964 2131 for more details or to book your place. Click here to purchase tickets for La Rochelle v Connacht.

Gloucester Rugby, the only club in EPCR’s tournaments with a 100 per cent record, as well as Newport Gwent Dragons and Exeter Chiefs have booked their spots in the last eight following last weekend’s action, but no club is yet guaranteed a home quarter-final.

Gloucester, who are currently ranked No 1 with an impressive 24 points, look set to be one of the four clubs to secure that precious home quarter, but with the winners of Pool 1 and Pool 4 still to be decided, there is the added incentive of places in the knockout stage for the three best runners-up.

The Dragons qualified for the tournament knockout stage for the second time in their history with an excellent 40-29 win over Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park and their mouthwatering clash with Stade Francais Paris at Rodney Parade on Saturday, as well as Newcastle’s trip to Bucharest, will settle everything in Pool 3.

As for Gloucester, they saw off Oyonnax at Kingsholm where a late Dan Robson try sealed the bonus point, and if they continue their winning ways in Brive on Thursday, they will be confirmed as top seeds going into the last eight.

Meanwhile, it’s highly competitive at the top of Pool 1 where London Irish lead the way. Irish dramatically edged out Grenoble 43-41 at the Madejski Stadium thanks to a last-gasp Myles Dorrian try, and with a trip to Rovigo on Saturday, they are favourites now to win the pool. However, Cardiff Blues are also very much in the mix and a victory in Grenoble would see them through to the quarter-finals as well.

Edinburgh Rugby looked to have secured their knockout place, but they were beaten 21-19 at Lyon where a Fabrice Estabenez drop goal in the closing minutes made the difference. The Scots now host Bordeaux-Begles – 26-3 winners over London Welsh – in a Pool 4 showdown at BT Murrayfield Stadium on Friday evening while Lyon are also still in the hunt.

It’s all about Gloucester in Pool 5 while Zebre registered an impressive 23-13 home win over Brive.


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